One thing I have learned in 6+ years of covering the local food scene is if a space is going to make it they have to evolve. This is the case with any business, but it is especially true in the restaurant world. Tastes change, chefs come and go, and the area around you undergoes a massive transformation.
This is very true for South on Main. The overall food palate of Little Rock has changed dramatically since they opened. The vast majority of the core team built around chef Matt Bell has moved on to other kitchens. The entire area of SoMa has undergone the biggest transformation in the whole city. South on Main had to change or be left behind, and change they have.
Don’t take it the wrong way, the spirit of the southern-centric restaurant is still very much intact. They have found new life in that spirit and a new identity. Looking over the latest menu with Chef Bell it was clear that this is not the same spot that opened, it is a more mature refined version.
The first thing that stands out is the dramatic difference in plating. South on Main always went for a very earthy style of plating in the past that put the food first with no frills. The plating now is beautiful and vibrant, colors leap off the plate in ways never before. Look at the beet tartar dish for example, it is full of huge saturated colors that really make it stand out from across the room. The softshell crab appetizer also plays well with vertical space making it a photo worthy dish that is delicious at the same time.
Speaking of instagram worthy dishes, expect to see a lot of their strawberry shortcake. It is a delicious and beautiful take on the classic.
The second big thing is the overall flavors. I’ve always enjoyed South on Main’s food, but they are working many more flavors into the dish and it is coming with the strong and delicate balance of an experienced kitchen. Dishes like their spring rice salad show a great balance both in flavor and texture. A staple like their pork chop entree is also more balanced than ever before.
Finally, the dishes overall have evolved to match the growing desires of the surrounding area. South on Main has always done a great job with vegetarian-friendly dishes, but this menu seems to double down on those options. I mentioned the beet tartar and the rice salad earlier, but things like the vegan schnitzel and the charred broccoli look fantastic. They are also doing some great takes on classics like chicken and dumplings, crawfish mac and cheese, and grilled snapper that comes on a hoecake.
It is a menu that begs for attention and multiple visits to try it all, which has to happen as the food scene around it continues to grow. Even better it keeps the core identity of South on Main, which always has complemented the other restaurants around it.
The new dinner menu is out now. Stop by and check it out, especially if it has been a while.